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Are guitar stores a thing of the past?

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Are guitar stores a thing of the past?

Whether you’re looking to purchase used guitar effects on eBay, or you regularly use Google Shopping to find the lowest RRP on the latest guitar model, you can’t deny there are some seriously good bargains to be found online. But is the humble guitar store a dying breed?

…surely, something as personal as purchasing a guitar requires the personal presence of an experienced member of staff to advice you in your purchase?…

The Shopping Experience

The Guitar Store, Southampton

The Guitar Store, Southampton

Most guitar stores offer their own personality, ultimately flowing from the shop owner themselves, flowing right through to the atmosphere and layout of the shop, even down to the choice of products they stock.

Take “Guitar Village” in Farnham for example – a shop that features a good blend of stock, with experienced & helpful staff on hand. But for many, it’s the experience of walking around a converted cottage that sticks in the mind.

The Guitar Store” in Southampton made a lasting impression on me with their excellent range of guitars, amps and boutique effects – but it’s their Fender Amp store-front that many people would remember them for.

The Online Experience

Many guitar stores, (quite rightly so), have a good web presence that allows the hassle-free transaction of low priced goods. Absolute Music Solutions in Poole offer both great in-store and online services. The Guitar Store website is both well-presented and intuitive, whilst stores such as Andertons and GAK present us with a classic online shopping experience.

But has the ease of setting up an e-commerce business had a negative impact on the humble guitar shop?


Not so long ago I was browsing an online guitar retailer website, who boast of having shops scattered across the country. One of these shops is based in Southampton, so a quick blast down the M27 should mean I could actually “try-before-I-buy” a very reasonably priced guitar pedal.

On arriving in Southampton, both with a Google map printed off, and their address details on my phone, I subsequently spent another 45 minutes trying to find the shop.

After finally finding the “store” entrance I was miffed to find the “store” consisted of a white Mexican Fender Stratocaster plugged into an Orange combo. The remainder of the store featured two members of staff, sat at a desk in front of PC’s, both wearing headsets, engaging directly with potential customers who were calling in from their website.

My heart sank, as their web presence alluded to the fact that their shop was going to be rammed full of low-priced guitar products. Maybe I’m naïve… or maybe standards need to be set by retailers to at least make an effort to ensure physical shops reflect the offerings presented by their online presence.


Don’t get me wrong, most of the guitar stores I visit regularly offer both good online and offline services. It was just a wakeup call to realise that online retailers need the minimum in the form of an actual shop front in order to begin trading.

I don’t begrudge anyone who’s trying to make a living through e-commerce, but surely, something as personal as purchasing a guitar requires the personal presence of an experienced member of staff to advise you in your purchase?

With the current online price war, where companies seem to be offering the lowest RRP possible, maybe my experience of the “shop” in Southampton is a sign of things to come.

I hope not.

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About the author:

Sam is passionate about talking all things guitar related and started GuitarJar.co.uk to help encourage all guitarists in their guitar playing journey.


  • i have bought guitars in shoppes and online and have found both to be good. my first acoustic was a takamine g series i got online and at only £180 i was so pleased with it. in fact i still had it as a back up guitar until 2 months ago. i could not fault the online service. but when i bought my latest acoustic last summer i went to absolute music when i could chat about what i was looking for. i left the shop keeper this a list of specs and features i wanted about a week later i had a phone call saying he had sound a Taylor that met my demands so i came down the next day where i was left in a quiet room alone for a good half an hour. a completely different experience. i think online has its place but if your dropping any serious money you have got to go to a shop. long live the shop!!!

  • Interesting article! The internet has changed everything about retail & if you ask 100 different people how they use the internet & how it affects the way they now shop, you’ll get 100 different answers. For my part, I have tried to keep Andertons core values the same – great service, good prices, independent advice/opinions, great selection – but I leave it up to the customer to decide how he/she wants to shop with us. We still have an incredibly busy store, but we now have a busy site too. About 20% of our customers have shopped with us in store AND online in the last 12 months. It’s really about what suits you at the time you want to make the purchase. I can’t say the same for all other stores, but for Andertons we offer all our stock at the same price/same offer regardless of whether you shop in store or online. Anyway – thanks for including us in the article – look forward to seeing more posts! Cheers, Lee.

  • In my opinion, street guitar stores need an e-commerce website more than ever because it is a natural extension of their business.

    Problem is that the other way around some people launched guitar e-commerce website thinking that a shop would be useless. Or even worst, they do have a “store” that doesn’t bring any additional value to the shopping experience.

    I guess they are just missing an important point here… Shopping for a guitar is not exactly like shopping for an iPod or stuff like that. I mean a lot of the decision process involved in buying a guitar is about how you feel when you see it in front of you, how comfortable it is when you grab it, and so on…

    Of course many of us already bought gear online (including guitars) but I’m rather sure that if I was given the choice between buying the same guitar online or in a shop, I would have move my ass to the shop to make sure that guitar was the cool deal I was expecting.

    Are guitar shop a thing of the past ? I don’t think so but I think they’ll have to put a lot of effort to resist against the full online retailers that don’t have the cost of real shop, and only have a cold warehouse that they sometimes dare calling a showroom!!

    As I am in France, I’ve never been to Andertons but I feel like they got it right : a real shop that adds a value to their e-commerce… A web presence that make people want to go the shop (I especially like the Youtube channel which is awesome), and eventually buy from them because the pricing looks right…

    I hope my point is clear enough… 🙂

  • Further to Lees comments I think what makes Andertons different is that the shop floor mentality spills over to the website too. For a long time the difference has been that in a shop you can get the staff’s extra insight into a product: sometimes vital information that the manufacturer had omitted or just extra information to help you make a decision. Ninety nine percent of websites include nothing but the images and copy (product description) straight from the product website with no added insight or information. Andertons on the otherhand add unique extra information that’s written in house by a team of guys that are as passionate about customer service and experience as the guys on the shop floor.

    My point is that E-commerce and shops can coexsist together and to a large extent the best experience for the customer is when the two look at each other for ways to improve that service further. The key is giving the customer the choice to shop the way they prefer.

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